By David Arbeit, Office of Geographic and Demographic Analysis
On May 25, 2007, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed a State Government Finance bill that funds the Land Management Information Center for the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years. The bill provides $889,000 for FY08 and $895,000 for FY09. The approved budget is about $200,000 less than a bill passed by the Legislature earlier in the session but vetoed by the Governor; however, it represents a ten percent increase over LMIC’s 2007 budget. Perhaps more importantly, the appropriation formalized a “base” budget, reducing the uncertainty that has clouded LMIC’s future since its budget was first threatened with reductions in 2005.
Why It Happened
LMIC’s budget was restored because the Legislature listened to the GIS community. From the time the Governor proposed his budget in January until the very end of the legislative session, LMIC stakeholders – those it serves and its partners – provided compelling testimony about LMIC’s importance. Support came in the form of emails, letters, phone calls, and testimony at hearings in both the House and the Senate. The response was so compelling that one Senator remarked at a budget hearing: “I’ve heard more from constituents about LMIC’s budget than about any other issue, including transportation.” He was not alone; several legislators made a special point to speak publicly about the support LMIC received from its community.
The Silver Lining
Minnesotans know about weather and successfully weathering a storm has its benefits. At the eye of a budget storm that began in 2005, LMIC staff had good reason for anxiety. Proposed budget cuts resulted in reorganization and downsizing. Few would blame them for being demoralized, perhaps even dysfunctional, but they remained committed to supporting Minnesota’s GIS community despite the turbulent environment. Staying positive was made easier by the public and private expressions of support brought on by the threat. Under less threatening circumstances, we only occasionally hear from stakeholders about LMIC’s value. But clearly, LMIC services were needed and would be missed.
What It Means
LMIC would have strived to serve Minnesota’s GIS needs even with more limited resources, but the restored funding allows us to express thanks by renewing our commitment to service. Expect a special emphasis on coordination, the Geographic Data Clearinghouse, expanded web services, and advocacy for issues important to Minnesota’s GIS community. In all of these areas, we will continue to promote integrated approaches that support and leverage the great work being done throughout the state. I hope you will continue to let us know how we’re doing.